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Toonami (a portmanteau of the words "cartoon" and "tsunami") is one of Cartoon Network's brands, used initially for action-oriented programming blocks on Cartoon Network television channels worldwide, mostly showing American and Japanese cartoons, originating in the United States on March 17, 1997, ending on September 20, 2008, and returned on May 26, 2012 as part of Adult Swim after their April Fools stunt. It has been hosted by two CGI hosts, Moltar, from the talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and TOM, an original character who is currently on his 6th incarnation (7th counting TOM 3.5).
In its original run, the block was famous for showcasing action anime that became widely popular with American audiences, including Dragon Ball Z.
The Toonami brand name was subsequently used in the United Kingdom as the name of an action-oriented animation channel replacing a former Cartoon Network-owned channel CNX, which had been a Toonami/live-action hybrid network. It also had a short-lived run on Kids WB from July 2001 to June 2002.
In September 2000, Toonami presented special interactive events known as Total Immersion Events or TIEs. These TIEs took place both on-air during Toonami and online at the official site, Toonami.com, and always occurred the week that the block's most popular series, Dragon Ball Z, returned for a new season. The very first TIE was The Intruder, which introduced TOM's companion, an AI matrix known as SARA, who played an integral part in the rebirth of TOM, upgraded from a short Bomberman-esque character (voiced by Sonny Strait, the adult voice of Krillin in the Funimation dub) to a taller, stronger, darker, deeper-voiced incarnation temporarily dubbed as TOM 2.0 (voiced by Steve Blum, who previously voiced the adult Goku in Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout), though it was the same TOM who still hosted the block.
Dragon Ball Z first premiered on Toonami on August 31, 1998, initially in re-runs after airing for two seasons in syndication. The ratings for these re-runs on Toonami were much more successful for the series, resulting in the continuation of its English dub by Funimation for Toonami's exclusive broadcast. New episodes were typically shown on weekday afternoons (specifically, 5 p.m. Eastern Time) Mondays through Fridays. The continued success of DBZ on Toonami led to them airing the original Dragon Ball series, which premiered on August 20, 2001.
Dragon Ball GT began airing on Toonami on November 7, 2003 with a "Bonus Introduction" to the beginning of the series, and then moved on to episodes 17-64. Funimation skipped the first 16 episodes of the series, and instead created an additional "flashback" episode (which is English-only) that retells the events of these first 16 episodes. After airing the final episode of DBGT, the previously-skipped episodes would air on Toonami as "The Lost Episodes".
On Saturday September 20, 2008, Cartoon Network canceled the block and aired its final transmission. Employees who worked on the block moved to other parts of the channel. Anime was mostly handled by Adult Swim afterwards, and a new block "CN Real" replaced Toonami on Saturday nights afterward. Toonami Jetstream remained with the Toonami name until January 30, 2009.
On May 16, 2012, on Adult Swim's Twitter account, they announced Toonami would return on May 26. The network issued a press release later that day confirming the block's revival as a Saturday late night anime block. Toonami aired Dragon Ball Z: Cooler's Revenge on May 24, 2014, and announced the following day that they would air Dragon Ball Z Kai uncut starting in the fall of 2014, later confirmed to be November 8; replacing Bleach at 12:00 AM. It was also later revealed that Kai would be airing in 4:3 instead of 16:9, a first for any show on the block (other shows made in 4:3 such as Cowboy Bebop are stretched to 16:9) using custom pillarboxes designed by the Toonami staff. Cooler's Revenge was later rerun on November 1, 2014 in the extra hour caused by Daylight Savings Time ending.
Dragon Ball Z Promos and Intros
"61 million fans can't be wrong! Dragon Ball Z! Only Toonami..."
Toonami was very famous for its promos, which showcased upcoming episodes. The Dragon Ball Z promos were particularly loved, and many have been uploaded to YouTube and other internet sites. The first promos were voiced by Moltar, who was the host at the time, but when TOM took over, most were voiced by(who is most famous as the voice of from Transformers and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh) and on occasion TOM himself. Earlier promos on the network for the first three DBZ movies had been voiced by , whose voice was heard on thousands of movie trailers (including promos for Cartoon Network's Cartoon Theater block) up until his death in 2008.
Dragon Ball Z Events
"DBZ20XL" was was a week-long Toonami event, which occurred during the week of Monday May 24th to Friday May 28th, 1999. During the event, four episodes of Dragon Ball Z were shown during the Toonami time slot from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM each day. To conclude the event, on Saturday May 29th, from 12:00 PM to 4:30 PM, three DBZ movies were aired: The Tree of Might, The World's Strongest, and Dead Zone.
"Z - Day" was a Toonami event in which Dragon Ball Z took over the block for the day. It first occurred on September 13, 1999, featuring the last two episodes of the Ocean dub and the premiere of the first two episodes of the Funimation dub. The event occurred for the second time on May 25, 2001, this time the viewers chose the first two episodes that aired by voting on Toonami.com. The last two episodes were the regularly scheduled episodes.
"DBZ President's Day Movie Marathon" was a Toonami marathon of three Dragon Ball Z movies that ran on February 21, 2000 (President's Day) from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The three movies shown were again The Tree of Might, The World's Strongest, and Dead Zone.
"Dragon Ball Chronicles" was a Toonami event in which Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT took over the block for three weeks. The event lasted from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM through March 29 - April 16, 2004, and was meant to celebrate Toonami's move from weekday afternoons to Saturday nights, which started on April 17, 2004. Two Pokémon movies, as well as select episodes of The Powerpuff Girls and a Transformers: Energon marathon were also shown on the Fridays during the event, but they were not part of it.
Toonami had two notable hosts: Moltar and TOM.
Moltar was the first and lesser-known, hosting from March 17, 1997 until July 10, 1999. He was the animated director of a former original Cartoon Network series, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, who had sent an observer robot titled Clyde 49 to Earth to study the planet and broadcast Toonami's signal from Ghost Planet Industries.
TOM (Toonami Operations Module), was introduced under his v.1 state (voiced by Sonny Strait), on July 10, 1999. He was a small, wise-cracking robot who controlled the signal aboard the Ghost Planet Spaceship Absolution. During September of the same year, he would be joined by the AI program SARA, and custodial robots named Clydes (their name being an homage to Clyde 49).
On September 18, 2000, Toonami aired The Intruder, its first Total Immersion Event (TIE), a special interactive event that took place both on-air and online. The Intruder lasted for eight episodes and culminated on September 27, 2000, with TOM and Sara successfully ejecting the titular Intruder from the Absolution, but at the cost of TOM and the Clydes being killed during the assault. Despite this, TOM's consciousness was transferred into an upgraded body (now voiced by Steve Blum) and was joined by newly upgraded Clydes prior to the final battle with the Intruder. This TOM had an ongoing existential crisis with himself. TOM v.2 would be seen from 2000 until March 17, 2003. On April 17, 2004, SARA was given a humanoid hologram body, and the new generation of Clydes, now Clyde 53, were introduced.
From March 17, 2003 to March 17, 2007, TOM v.3 was shown, with his origins being explained in the Endgame TIE and online comic. This body was similar to his previous state, however was more muscular and taller, with a smaller head. This version of TOM now introduced a new look to the block, and slight redesign to the Absolution ship. A polished design of this TOM was used for the Adult Swim revival from May 26, 2012 to April 20, 2013.
On the tenth anniversary of Toonami (March 17, 2007), the block was given a complete redesign, with TOM debuting a new organic look, SARA being replaced with new robots called Two. Flash, Spike, and the setting of the show was moved from space to a jungle area on a rocky planet. The origins of TOM v.4 are unknown, but the overhauled design received highly negative feedback from fans.
On April 27, 2013, TOM's design was rehauled again. The new design included a smaller Absolution, the return of SARA and other things. To promote the new design, the official Toonami tumblr was rebranded with the new look. The new Absolution was destroyed by TOM during the events of the Intruder II TIE, in order to eliminate the titular villain once and for all. Following this, TOM acquired a new spaceship, the Vindication, from the planet Shogo 162 to continue Toonami's broadcast.
Following the events of The Forge TIE in late 2019, TOM was upgraded yet again and began running the titular space station as Toonami's base of operations. This lasted until The Return TIE in March 2022 (coinciding with Toonami's 25th anniversary), in which TOM and SARA encountered an upgraded version of the original Absolution sent from the future and continued their job onboard it.
- Toonami was the first to air the Dragon Ball Z episode "Escape from Piccolo", which was part of the Saban Dub but was skipped in the original syndication run due to controversy over its depiction of child orphans.
- Outside of Toonami, there was once an incident on Cartoon Network's "JBVO" show where a young girl named Jennifer phoned in to air an episode of Dragon Ball Z. The rules were that the cartoons aired on this segment shouldn't be more than 10 minutes long so apparently, the episode aired at about 2x speed with Johnny Bravo commentating over the episode. Due to the unpopularity of the segment and the internet not being very widespread at the time to archive these segments, the full segment is lost but there is a 5 second clip that surfaced from it where Johnny mentions the Namekians recovering on Earth. Before this footage was discovered, this episode of JBVO was considered a rumor that many people have claims they remember seeing on TV.
- "Dragon Ball Super" Toonami Premiere Scheduled. crunchyroll (December 7, 2016).